Tight ends who are big targets many times are a quarterback's best friend. And if not that, he certainly is a security blanket. Spencer Ladner has been that kind of player at Pembroke Hill since his freshman season and he has slowly developed into one of the best receiving tight ends on the country.
"I actually play wide receiver in high school and a little bit at tight end," said Ladner. "I have always been in the receiving area. In middle school, I was a quarterback. I actually threw three touchdown passes this year. They put me in at quarterback and I went 4-for-4 for 160 yards and three touchdowns. They have a few set plays for me at where I can throw the ball. It is kind of like a pitch back to me when I am right behind the line of scrimmage, then I lob it out to either of our wide receivers."
Ladner had 620 yards worth of receiving last season and 10 touchdowns, but didn't line up much as a pure tight end. He has proven that he can be an effective blocker, but in many respects the jury is still out on him in this area. Despite the fact he lines up mostly a wide receiver, Ladner is still considered one of the best tight ends in the country.
"It is something that I always wanted to happen," said Ladner. "That is why I train in the off-season so hard, and that is why I have work at my game. I kind of wanted it to happen. Growing up, my brother was recruited (Stanford) and I started to reading Scout.com and that kind of thing and said to myself, 'Dang, I want to be on there.' That is why I train hard and it is just awesome what is happening right now. It does come with some burden or pressure because all this recruiting stuff gets pretty big."
Ladner also started in basketball and earned first-team all-state honors averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds a game leading his team to a second place finish in state. Ladner says he is getting some looks from a few D-1 programs, but he has let everybody know that he is going to play football.
He can bench over 300 pounds, but because of a minor knee problem he deadlifts instead of working with the squat. He has posted a 31-inch vertical jump and recently participated in the Kansas City Scout combine. Ladner has been to Junior Day at Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and is headed to Oregon soon for a camp. He also visited Wisconsin.
Ladner says he has been offered by Oklahoma, Nebraska, Clemson, Wisconsin, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Duke, Illinois, Colorado, Washington State, and Michigan was his latest of offer.
"I have about 15 offers right now and I am pretty sure the list is going to continue to grow," said Ladner. "I don't have a top five right now, but I would say that I can't visit all of these schools. The schools that I am definitely going to visit are Cal, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska again. Other than that, I would have to say Oklahoma and Iowa are two other schools that I am definitely going to get up to."
Just how big of an interest does Ladner have in OU?
"I know they are a great program that is always going to be competing for a National Championship," said Ladner. "As far as I know, it is a great program and produces a lot of great players. As far as tight ends go, I know they kind of use them for both passing and run blocking. They have a balanced offense. I know they do spread out the tight ends occasionally to the slot, but not a lot. They just don't ignore the tight end, they still pass it to him a lot. That is pretty much what I know about Oklahoma. I haven't visited Oklahoma yet, but I do have some interest in them like I do with some of the other schools. Because it is a big, national program I will take a close look at it."
"I am wide open in recruiting right now," Ladner continued. "It pretty much depends on how my visits go. That is really how I am going to make my decision. My main concern with all of these visits is going to be the academic program at each school. I do know the rankings of each school and how it stands up academically. All the schools that I am looking at are pretty much on the higher half of the list when it comes to academics. I don't have to worry about that too much.
"When I visit, the kind of town the college is in or the city will be important. Coaches are important, but you can't rely on them to much because that always changes. I need to have a pretty good relationship with the coaches that I am coming in with. The football program is kind of a big deal and what kind of fans they have. I will have a concern about how the football program is and how successful they are. All that kind of atmosphere will be a deciding factor. Style of offense will play a small role in my decision."
Ladner wants to major in either business or journalism, and he has qualified.